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March Seasonal Ingredients

Seasonal Ingredients...

Spring brings us an abundance of vegetables, with tender stems and delicate flavours.  Some of the vegetables have a very short season so it is worth making the most of them.

Purple sprouting broccoli is available at this time of year, and if you’re a gardener it will be gracing your vegetable patch.  It is rather like asparagus with tender stems that should snap, the delicate florets having a dark purple colour.  It should be eaten as fresh as possible otherwise it tends to become a tough.

It is full of vitamin C and a good source of iron, folic acid, calcium and Vitamin A.  Purple sprouting broccoli was initially cultivated by the Romans, so you will see a number of Italian dishes including it.  It has been grown in the UK since the 18th Century.

It can be used in a variety of dishes – boiled or steamed it can be a simple side dish; add it to a stir-fry with some chilli, add it to pasta, or eat it with Hollandaise sauce as an indulgent treat.

Mackerel is also available at this time of year - in abundance.  Mackerel is a beautiful shiny fish with grey and silver stripes.  Mackerel is an oily fish, and an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.  It can give us some Vitamin D as well.

It has a delicate flesh which can be cooked in many ways and stays moist when cooked.  It can have a rich flavour once cooked, and doesn’t go well with creamy buttery sauces.  It is best simply grilled or pan fried.   It can be paired with sharp flavours such as rhubarb or gooseberry which cuts through the richness of the flavour.

Purple sprouting broccoli on the side of grilled mackerel is a delicious combination.
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Going Vegan for January?
Have you decided to try and be a vegan for January and joined the popular Veganuary movement?   There’s been a lot in the press about vegans and veganism, not least William Sitwell’s controversial comments last year about killing vegans.

Whatever your motivation, whether it’s to be a bit healthier or you’ve read/seen information about the meat trade or you’re worried about the impact on the environment made by producing food; it is a good idea to understand what you need to do to ensure you stay healthy and get the nutrients you need in your new diet.  As a vegan you are cutting out all foods and ingredients that are produced by animals – so you have to take out all dairy products, honey and eggs.  And if you’re going the whole hog then being a vegan can also extend to cutting out clothing, toiletries, cosmetics and other items that include animal products.

The proteins and nutrients essential to good health and well-being can be found in other sources. For example: protein is also found in beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and soya alternatives. Also a number of vegetables contain protein such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Omega 3 type vitamins can be found in seeds and nuts such as linseed, chia seeds and walnuts. Milk products can be replaced with soya, almond or oat milks and cream.  For more information visit the Vegan Society’s nutrition pages on their website.

If you have favourite dishes you think you can’t live without, try and find an alternative or adapt a recipe as far as possible to take out the animal products.  It can be expensive buying vegan products and there are many cheap ways of making substitutes.   For instance, did you know that aquafaba, the water from the can of beans or chickpeas, is an egg substitute and can make delicious chocolate mousse, pancake batter and even meringues.  If you don’t believe us, click here for our vegan chocolate mousse recipe!

Being vegan isn’t just for January and can be a lifestyle choice.  If you’d like to learn more about how to cook vegan food, The Cooking Academy’s Vegan class is scheduled for 23 January or 6 April click here to book a place.

The Vegan Society provides lots of information on becoming vegan.

#thecookingacademy #Veganuary #vegan #healthyingredients  #williamsitwell
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Christmas cooking – it’s all about timing
Does the thought of preparing the Christmas meal fill you with fear and trepidation?  Does your mother and/or mother-in-law tell you how to do things their way?  All those people offering to help, and then disappearing with a drink when the moment to serve up comes!

As with most things, it’s all in the planning.  Work out what time you want people to sit down for the meal, and work back from that.  There are a number of things you can do to get things prepared in advance, what you can do to ‘cheat’, and how to get your head round the timings so that everything is ready and piping hot at the right time.

Christmas Eve  

The day before you can prepare all the vegetables. Peel and cut the spuds, parsnips and carrots.  You can keep them in cold water overnight.  Leave them in the garage, covered so your pets don’t get them.

If you’re making Yorkshire puddings, make the batter the day before and keep in the fridge.  The batter will mature as the gluten has time to develop.  Alternatively buy Aunty Bessy’s Yorkshires!

Bread sauce and the stuffing can be made in advance and kept cool.  It’s easier to cook the stuffing in a separate dish and serve from that rather than stuffing the turkey which will extend the cooking time.

The base for the gravy can be made in advance.  Using good chicken stock and half a bottle of wine or Masala bring to the boil and reduce to a syrupy consistency.

Brandy butter can be made the day before, if not before that and kept in the fridge, or a cool room.

Calculate how long you need to cook the turkey.  If you’ve worked it out in advance, you won’t fret all night about getting up early enough.  Weigh the turkey on the scales, if it is too big to put on the scales, try using the bathroom scales.   Calculate the cooking time, at 40 minutes a kilo up to 4kg, and 45 minutes for every kilo over that weight.   Therefore, a 5kg turkey will take 3½ - 4 hours to cook (without stuffing).  Factor in the resting time, must be a minimum of 35 minutes to allow the fibres to set and the juices to baste the meat.  You can keep a turkey resting for up to an hour covered with aluminium foil it will keep its heat.

Make sure you’ve got a roasting pan big enough for the bird and that it will fit into the oven!

On the day (timings based on a 5kg turkey)

8.30am switch on the oven to 180C

9am put the turkey in the oven

12.30pm par boil the potatoes and parsnips. Drain and allow to air-dry for a bit, shake the colander/sieve so that you roughen the edges of the potatoes to make them crisp up nicely.

1pm take the turkey out of the oven, check it’s cooked by putting a skewer into a really fleshy part and seeing if the juices run clear.  Alternatively use a food thermometer and check that the temperature is over 68C.  Then cover the bird in aluminium foil and allow it to rest.  Crank up the oven to 200C, put goose fat or oil in roasting tins for the potatoes and parsnips and place them in the oven to heat up.  Once hot, put the potatoes in to cook; the parsnips can go in 15 minutes later.

1.30pm cook the carrots; finish the gravy by adding the juices from the turkey roasting pan and bring to a simmer.  Taste and season, if it is too strong, add some water.

Ensure you’ve got warm serving plates ready

1.45pm cook the green vegetables; take out the potatoes and parsnips.

2pm Serve… sit down with a drink and allow someone else to carve!

Happy Christmas!
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Can dinner determine your destiny?
There is no doubt that food can act as a natural medicine, your dinner can determine your destiny. Polyphenol-rich foods found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are a pharmacy to enhance your body’s "chemistry set", moving the needle away from inflammation and disease and toward healing and vitality. A long life free of illness can be found at the end of your fork.

To be honest we really don’t need to eat too much, simple plant based food can give us so much of what we require. Throw into that some great omega 3 ingredients, and food can be at its best.

Plant-based foods such as blueberries, acai berries, spinach and broccoli are so powerful because they are high in polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of plant-based chemicals that have at least one phenol. One type of polyphenols is phenolic acids including red fruits, onions, coffee, cereals and spices.

Polyphenols improve your health in several ways including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

The second group is the flavonoids, including isoflavones found in soy, anthocyanidins in berries and wine, flavones in herbs, flavonols in broccoli, tomato and tea, flavanones in citrus fruits and juices, and flavan-3-ols in cocoa, tea and wine.

Finally, the famous ones don't fit into any class, including resveratrol and stilbenes from wine and nuts, curcumin in spices, and lignansP in linseeds.

The evidence for the benefits of foods rich in polyphenols comes from hundreds of studies. One example reported that a higher intake of polyphenols, particularly stilbenes from grapes and nuts and lignans from linseed, was associated with a longer lifespan.

In another study, healthier arteries were found in those who ate raw or al-dente vegetables and avoided dairy products. Consumption of fresh fruit, wine and avoidance of animal products was also associated with less inflammation. Intake of flavonoid-rich foods such as bran, apples, pears, grapefruit, strawberries, red wine and chocolate was associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

10 foods high in polyphenols are celery, dark chocolate, linseed, sage, rosemary, thyme, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and coffee.

Aim for 7-10 serving per day of brightly coloured vegetables and fruit per day for a healthier life!

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The Alchemy of Food

The Alchemy of Food by Kumud Gandhi.

Kumud Gandhi, the Food Alchemist - is the founder of The Cooking Academy, a unique cookery school that puts the beneficial properties of ingredients at the heart of everything we teach. We call it the ‘Alchemy of Food’.


Kumud Gandhi trained in food science, and her ethos is to combine the science of food, nutritional value and great taste to create wholesome, nutritional and delicious recipes. Her passion for bringing food and science together to create the ‘Alchemy of Food’ stems from her family heritage, where her mother’s family are chemists and her father’s ancestors were spice merchants.  And so as a child she grew up surrounded by what she calls ‘The Alchemy of food’.


Kumud has put much of her knowledge and understanding of spices into her bookA Cupboard Full of Spices which will be published in October.  The book is a go-to reference book for recipes as well as a beautiful cookery book including many favourite family recipes dating back through the generations.


The Alchemy of Food, teaching ethos at The Cooking Academy explores the chemical composition, Ayurvedic and herbal values of food so that recipes and eating plans can be matched to meet dietary requirements and individual lifestyles.


Heading up the Academy, Kumud and her team teach the health benefits of different herbs and spices used in all genre of food. For example if you suffer from indigestion or heart burn, try incorporating fennel, both fresh and fennel seed into your diet; or if you suffer from poor circulation then you should increase the use of chillies and in particular ginger in food; Ginger is in the ‘super food’ category packed with antioxidants, it is an anti-inflammatory, circulation stimulator, and an antiseptic. It is also hugely beneficial for the digestion of food.


food alchemy a cupboard full of spices kumud gandhi cookingfood the cooking academy kumud gandhi a cupboard full of spicesfood a cupboard full of spices alchemy kumud gandhi

So many common everyday ingredients can provide relief for existing conditions and working with these herbs and spices into your daily diet can actually prevent many common ailments and allergies.


For Kumud it is a realization that the kitchen cupboard promises to offer more effective solutions to our health problems than the medicine cabinet; after all, prevention is better than cure. Our objectives at The Cooking Academy are to make people aware of the nutritional value of simple, everyday ingredients, the effects it has in our bodies and how we can use them in food. Many of the everyday cupboard spices have excellent effects on these issues and they have been used by early ancestors and ancient civilizations – and yet forgotten in today’s world.

Kumud regularly runs master classes on the history of spices named ‘The Spice Trail’ which explores the origins of spices and their importance in the global trade around the world.  It charts the use of spices in modern medicines and in culinary use for good health.

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